The Middle Class Guide to taking a Gap-Year (Part 2)

More questions about taking a gap year, answered.

Hey there! This is Week 51 of my blog series where I keep myself accountable by keeping an online journal of sorts. You can read the beginning of this story — Why I quit my job to study, volunteer and travel.

You’re frustrated with work. You feel like life is slowly slipping out of your hands. The (once cherished) routine has now become drudgery and you are looking for an out. The business, job or relationship that you have been working on seems to be headed towards a dead end. You feel like leaving it all and running away.

Take a deep breath. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Hold your breath. Now breathe out, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Does it still seem like your frustration or confinement is not going away? Give it some time. Take a day or a week or a month.

If the sinking feeling in your stomach is not going away, maybe it is time to consider taking a gap year. There are many reasons to take a gap year.

Find a new perspective on life, re-invent yourself, see new places and expand your knowledge of the world and yourself. It is not something that is just glamorous. From the first time I made this decision, I asked myself if this was the right thing a million times. But that is the thing about self-introduced disruption. It drains the fuck out of you!

Image courtesy of Unsplash

But let me tell you one thing. It is absolutely worth it.

If you’re still reading, let’s go over some important points.

How much money do I need?

We’ve covered a bit of this in Part 1. But this is so important that we will go over it again.

It is time to do some basic math depending on how many places that you wish to cover.

International experiments take more money. However, if you’re from the West and want to spend some time in a place like India or South East Asia, it will work out to be cheaper than staying in your home country or continent.

But if you’re from India or South East Asia, then the currency story is absolutely different. The tables are against you.

But you know your financial situation better than I do, so remember that. If you don’t, then spend some time thinking about it.

Next step is to figure out your burn rate. Your burn rate is how much money you spend on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. If you have 100 bucks in the bank and you’re spending 10 bucks a day, then your runway is 10 days long. But remember to factor one time expenses like Travel to and from places, buying a tent, getting verified on Couchsurfing etc.

As a finance guy, it’s generally advised to have an emergency fund that covers 6 months expense in the bank. But for your gap year, when you have a 2 months runway, it is time to plan your next move. Be it finding a job, getting someone to finance you or moving in with your parents. Basically figure out a logical next step.

Now do you know why I say planning is an important element of taking a year off? Hopefully now you have a fair number in mind. Calculate it, if you’re still having difficulties you can always send me an email for help. Don’t worry. I don’t bite or charge for helping fellow mavericks figure their life out.

I have a year in front of me. What now?

The biggest thing you should have already figured out before embarking on a gap year is to find out the why. Why are you doing this? What are the outcomes that you’re aiming for?

The biggest challenge once your time off starts is really to make sure you don’t become a vegetable who just eats, craps and watches TV all day. (PS — Doing that for a week or 2, once every 3 months is acceptable. But no more.)Not doing anything is easy, engaging yourself activities that push your comfort zone is tough.

You need to go out and find your place in the world. A year is a really long period of time that you’re scooping out of your life. Better fucking make the best of it. Let’s try and look at some outcomes that you can aim for.

Not doing anything is easy, engaging yourself activities that push your comfort zone is tough.

Seva or Volunteer Work -

We all have causes that we feel strongly towards. What do you feel about that you wish to make a difference.?

Good causes to work on in my opinion is something that is causing a significant different to the community and one where the people / animals (depending on what you are working towards)are empowered to help themselves and get out of the problems they are in.

I was fortunate enough to learn about the impact that tourism is having on the lives of the local communities of Kerala when I volunteered with Kabani Community Tourism.

To know more about the different places that you can go and volunteer your time, you can check out the links below.

However, let me warn you that 90% of these folks or NGO (Non-Government Organizations) do not respond or take forever to get back to you. So, if you’re not hearing back do not feel disheartened. Keep trying and following up. You are bound of find your place. One thing that I steered clear of were organizations that were asking me for money to volunteer (what bull-shit)! But their argument is that the money is for food and accommodation for volunteers and is recovered on a “cost” basis. That’s another decision that you will have to make.

Why Volunteer?

  1. When you work for someone as a volunteer, all of your ego and pigheadedness flutters away. You are at the mercy of the organization that you’re with and have to deal with/adjust with whatever has been provided to you.
  2. To realize how lucky you are to have whatever have :)
  3. To develop empathy
  4. To see the world and the problems it faces with a different perspective, one centered around the happiness or misery of people not around the amount of wealth that they have.

Fair warning, there are many organizations that are full of shit and are name-sake only. They may also be involved in illegal activities, money laundering and all kinds of shady shit. But it is upto you to do your home-work and choose accordingly. Even if you feel like you’re in the wrong place after joining, you can always quit. (Quit for the right reasons :) )

Adventure Sports Training

You’ve always wanted to spend some time in the mountains. The allure of spending some time in quiet serenity among the humbling peaks that test and tease the clouds and the snow. You’re tough and fit. You want to escape the noise of the city and find some inner peace.

Mountaineering / Skiing / Winter Sports— The Govt. of India has set up a slew of mountaineering, skiing and winter-sports institutions after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay summited Mt. Everest.

https://www.hmidarjeeling.com/

Being someone who spent a month in Sonamarg, Kashmir doing the Basic Mountaineering Course, I can vouch for the fact that this is a great way to spend a month or two on the slopes while picking up some killer skills that have a wide range of applications.

While organizations like NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School, USA) charge a few thousand dollars to get the same training, you can get trained, eat, sleep, use equipment all for INR 7500 (~USD 120) all inclusive (21 to 28 Days) for Indians and a few dollars more for others. Talk about value for money.

You can read more about my experience here —

One Year Out-door Leadership Program of Indiahikes

Indiahikes is one of India’s largest trekking communities. I’ve been on Himalayan treks with them from 2012 and these guys really know the mountains like the back of their hand.

While IndiaHikes and the allure of the Himalayas continues to grow, The Outdoor Leadership Program is an attempt by founder Arjun Majumdar to attract talent to the slopes. Apart from being a very alluring opportunity for potential mountain-maniacs, it is also a great way to get people to come and work for them for a limited period of time while both parties gain a wealth of experience in the process.

Arjun is a genius! If only I knew about the program a year back when my gap-year had started :( ❤


When is the best time for me to embark on a gap-year? This and other questions will be answered in Part 3.



Only 1 more weeks to the 52 weeks and I would have completed writing my year of the blog.

Here is what all I did this week —

  • Continued my Vipassana practice of 2 hours a day and daily Pranayam
  • Finished my third week of remote work from Mysore.
  • Headed to Hyderabad for a week on work :D
  • Learnt about a wonder-cure for cough, cold and asthma called Zinda Tilsimath

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